Frankie Edgar knows he’s a rarity in the UFC.
After making his Octagon debut in 2006, the 37-year old New Jersey native has spent the majority of his career either as a champion or a top contender in two different divisions.
When he was reigning atop the lightweight division, current champions such as Khabib Nurmagomedov, Robert Whittaker, and Daniel Cormier weren’t even on the UFC roster yet. Since dropping down to 145 pounds, Edgar has been a stalwart in the featherweight rankings, twice competing for a title and facing a long list of top contenders in the division.
This weekend at UFC 240, Edgar will take his third stab at becoming featherweight champion when he faces Max Holloway in the main event from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It’s not lost on Edgar that these kinds of opportunities don’t come along everyday and it’s an even rarer feat that he’s stepping into his ninth UFC title fight after his first happened nearly a decade ago.
“I’m just a motherf—ker still. That’s the truth,” Edgar told MMA Fighting when asked how he’s stayed relevant in the UFC for such a long time. “I am still as competitive as I’ve ever been. I’m still in the gym doing grappling rounds and people tell me ‘what is this the f—king world championship’s on the line?’.
“Every f—king day the world championship is on the line for me.”
For all that he’s accomplished, Edgar will never claim that he’s the best athlete competing in the UFC nor will he tout himself as the most prolific striker or the greatest wrestler to ever step foot in the Octagon.
Instead, Edgar has relied on tenaciousness and a competitive spirit that is virtually unmatched, which has continued to serve him well nearly 13 years into his UFC career.
“Being as consistent as long as I have, I definitely think it has to with my stubbornness and I’m very competitive,” Edgar said. “But I’m in the gym. The reason I’m in the gym is I want to win. I have good people around me. I have a good team around me. They want me to win, too.
“It kind of all comes full circle with what I have around me and the kind of person that I am.”
To climb the mountain to become champion again, Edgar will have to go through arguably the greatest featherweight of all time when he faces Holloway this weekend.
The Hawaiian champion rattled off 13 straight wins until finally tasting defeat earlier this year when he moved up to 155 pounds for an opportunity to battle against Dustin Poirier for the interim lightweight title.
“It was a great performance from both guys,” Edgar said about Holloway’s fight against Poirier. “That was definitely one of the best fights of the years. I’m not surprised. I’ve actually trained with Dustin quite a bit in the past and I knew he was going to give Holloway a lot of trouble. I knew the size difference was going to play a factor and to me that’s kind of what it seemed like.
“I just think he was not the bigger guy where he usually is.”
Coming up short that night didn’t diminish Holloway’s incredible run, especially considering the way he dished out two vicious beatdowns against former champion Jose Aldo in consecutive fights that helped him win and then defend his featherweight title.
Edgar certainly isn’t looking at Holloway as an easier fight now just because he fell to Poirier earlier this year. In fact, Edgar is reticent to even attempt to point out flaws in Holloway’s game because in reality there are none.
“He doesn’t really give you much time to kind of expose any of those holes,” Edgar said. “He’s kind of always in your face. You have to fight fire with fire and just kind of battle it out with this guy. There are no weaknesses. I’ve just got to make sure my strengths are better than his strengths.”
The featherweight champion is well known for putting a pace on his opponents that no one has been able to keep up with for the past five years but Edgar is anxious to test that theory against Holloway this weekend.
“I definitely think that’s going to come into play and help me out. It’s kind of easy being the guy pushing the pace when things are going your way but when a guy doesn’t go away and gives you some trouble, that’s when you start second guessing yourself,” Edgar said. “When you’re in the driver’s seat, the conditioning feels great.
“As soon as you get taken out of that, that’s when you start saying ‘am I a little bit tired?’. That’s the plan. I always know I’ve got a full five round tank. I’ve been in plenty of wars. It’s always good to have that in the back pocket.”
Edgar isn’t big on predictions, which is why he’s not going to go crazy trying to call his shot against Holloway. In a perfect world, Edgar knows how he will win this fight but he’s ready for whatever gets thrown at him on Saturday night.
“I push the pace on him. I put him in positions that he doesn’t want to be in. He starts second guessing himself and the f—king Frankie train keeps rolling,” Edgar said with a laugh. “I’m going to have that Edmonton crowd cheering for me by the end of that night.”
If all goes well at UFC 240, Edgar will leave Canada with the featherweight title around his waist while becoming just the eighth fighter in UFC history to hold championships in two different divisions.
It’s not lost on him what it would mean to hold a title again more than seven years after his last reign ended but Edgar doesn’t want to think too much about that right now because there’s still work to be done.
“I don’t want to get caught up in the moment. Sometimes they say you’ve got to stop and smell the roses but I don’t want to smell the roses quite yet,” Edgar said. “Every fight means everything to me at that moment. I know what’s at stake at the point I’m at in my career and everything that comes into play with this. But yeah, I wanted to win my first fight just as bad as I want to win this fight. My first fight was in a little rinky dink boxing gym in the Bronx. I want to win everything I do.
“The title definitely has some more implications involved and I can’t deny that, I can’t not think about it, but I try to just focus on the task at hand — that’s win the next fight.”